On Being a Culchie

I don’t know how widespread the term ‘culchie’ is but it is certainly alive and well here in Ireland where it grew up.

Just in case you’ve never heard of a culchie, it’s a term used to describe ‘an unsophisticated country person,’ and it is thought to derive from the name of a village in Co. Mayo called Kiltimagh (or Coillte Mach in the Irish language.) Let me say that Kiltimagh is a lovely village where I happened to spend a good bit of time working back in the 1980s.

I would define myself as a bit of a culchie and that’s because ‘home’ has always been in towns, rather than cities. You really get to realise how much of a culchie you are when you leave home and go to Dublin, in particular. All of a sudden, you realise that your accent isn’t Dublinesque ( and I must emphasise that there are very different kinds of Dublin accents.)

Part of being a culchie relates to the to-ing and fro-ing from the city. Young culchies tend to ‘go home’ at weekends ~ a return to the land, to townlands, parishes, villages, towns ~ on trains or buses.

Maeve Binchy, the great Irish writer, wrote about the culchie syndrome in her book The Lilac Bus. My Lilac Bus was called The Princess Bus and it brought us culchies up and back and up and back … from Clonmel to Dublin every weekend. It departed Clonmel at 6am on a Monday morning so you can imagine the levels of concentration at 9am lectures.

Culchies were the ones who lived in flats so in ways we had a lot more independence than the crowd from Dublin who tended to live with their parents while they were in College.

I think it’s fair to say that there are levels of ‘culchieism.’ A true culchie is someone who hardly ever sets foot in a city and stands out like an alien when he/she hits the ‘Big Smoke.’ Then there’s people like me who have lived in big cities but who have always had strong roots in the country. Lots of us, who are a ‘bit of a culchie’ eventually flee the city and settle back in our natural habitats. This tends to mean that the the level of culchieism rises again and there is quite a culture shock when one arrives in Dublin.

Then there are culchies who settle permanently in cities, like my brother and sister who have lived in Dublin since their college days. Their kids have been born and reared in Dublin so they are one step removed from culchieism.

I have no qualms about calling myself a culchie because I feel that I am one; I know that I am one. However, there are definitely people who live outside Dublin who would focus more on the sophistication aspect of the definition of a culchie than the country part.

The question I have for the rest of the world is whether the term ‘culchie’ has travelled and, if not, is there a distinction drawn between people people from big cities and those from country areas ~ sophisticated or not!

sheep
My Culchieland in Co. Waterford.

 

 

 

Author: socialbridge

I am a sociologist and writer from Ireland. I have worked as a social researcher for 30 years and have had a lifelong passion for writing. My main research interests relate to health care and I love to write both non-fiction and poetry.

33 thoughts on “On Being a Culchie”

  1. Coming from Dublin I didn’t think a Culchie was unsophisticated, I meant they came from ‘the country’ as in ‘outside Dublin’. It mattered not to me that they came from a city outside Dublin, if they weren’t a Dub they were a culchie. A term my own Cork born kids reject.

    1. Hi Tric, now that’s interesting about the sophistication aspect, given that you’re a Dub. Us ‘culchies’ are very aware of it even if the Dubs just look at our parish pumpness and the like!
      I agree really about cities other than Dublin. I guess your kids’ rejection could be based on the fact that they have a Dub as a mother so they aren’t full culchies anyway. (Neither of my parents was from Dublin so that added to the culchification,)

  2. I know the term clunchie, I am one though backwards, born and grown up in London now living outside the city in a town. A Berkshire town with more country around …for now.
    Here we are townies or hicks from the sticks!!💚💛💜

    1. ‘Hicks from the sticks’ is a new one to me. Definitely the same idea as culchie.
      You’d be called a ‘blow in’ in your town, if you were here in Ireland, and once a blow in, always a blow in!

  3. Oh, this is fascinating. I have never heard of the term. I don’t think it’s traveled to the states at all. Is there a difference between country and city in the U.S.? Yes, it’s called Republicans and Democrats. LOL.
    OK, seriously, there used to be more of a “thing” about this. My generation grew up on the Aesop’s Fable of Country Mouse and City Mouse (not the correct name). But now minorities cluster more in the cities, and that is the main difference in this country–that cities have a lot of diversity and the country not so much.
    Actually, I think my joke was spot on.

  4. Have never heard the term “culchie.” We do have a few different terms for country vs. city folks here in the midwestern US. People living out in the country are “bumpkins,” and if they live in the Appalachian mountain region, they’re called “hillbillies.”

  5. I never heard the term culchie. Your post was enlightening. I’m sure some people probably use the term in a derogatory manner, but you made it sound endearing. There’s nothing wrong with being unsophisticated so long as your heart is in the right place.

    1. Hi CM, I must say that these days people tend to be very proud of their country/culchie background. It’s a bit like that move from being ashamed of being brought up poverty to highlighting it wherever possible.
      As for sophistication, I think that’s in the mind of the the beholder. So hard to define.

  6. Interesting that Jean, having lived in Ireland I understand the term culchie. We laugh at it when we go to Dublin, it is the feeling we sometimes get when we see the smartly dressed people, where in the country towns people often just sees fleeces and jeans 🙂 All in all it is an endearing term, and from the comments I can see that it is similarly used all over the world but named differently. Interesting to read where the term has actually derived from.

    1. Agnes, I totally agree about the clothes. Here in Tramore, you’d be almost laughed out of it if you were all dressed up. It would be assumed you were going to a wedding or something!
      Yes, the origin is interesting.

  7. I hadn’t heard of that expression, but it a good one! I love to hear more of your personal background too, Jean. I have enjoyed Maeve Binchy, and now I think I need to read The Lilac Bus!

  8. This was a fun post, and I learned a new word, as I never heard of a culchie. As already mentioned, country bumpkin and hick are pretty common, both implying ignorant, and or unsophisticated. “Yokel” is another I heard a lot growing up in Texas, and in some areas of Texas, country folks were called “goat ropers”, even if they did not farm, ranch, or even rope goats. 🙂

  9. Hi Jean. I’d never before heard your term. But I grew up surrounded by farm land and eating home-grown foods. After two decades in urban areas, I’m very ready to “go home” to the country! Thanks for the new word and for a deeper appreciation of the “worldly” nature of my “condition.” 😁 jen

  10. Another new word for me Jean, I’ve never heard of ‘culchie’, but it strikes me that there is always that distinction between those who live in the country and those from the cities, whatever the word used.

    1. I’m with you on that distinction, Andrea. The idea that a city dweller might never have seen a cow is quite amazing but then there’s things that a culchie like me wouldn’t have a clue about in relation to city life (and I seem to be getting more and more like that when it comes to Dublin.)

  11. Never come across the expression elsewhere. But certainly a girl I worked with in Dublin used to commute to and from Wicklow and she embraced that name.

    I don’t know if the (rather old) expression of ‘mountainy men’ was purely a Cork thing? It was used by the village and small town dwellers to describe those who lived even more remotely.

    1. Interesting how Wicklow was once culchieland and now would be seen as being part of Dublin.
      ‘Mountainy Men’ rings bells with me from various parts of the country. I know exactly what you mean about the remote aspect to them!

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